If you have been a part of the project management world for a while now, then you would know that a product backlog is a prioritized set of desired features and functionalities that consists of all of the important items that are critical to complete a product release.
This backlog contains many different elements like enhancements, bug fixes that the development team has to perform, new features that have to be introduced, and the technology upgrades that are needed in the current product.
One thing that you need to understand is that it is very easy for a lot of people to confuse a product backlog with a task sheet or just a to-do list for the development team to perform different activities, but in reality, it is so much more than that.
Let’s now take a look at what the product backlog contains so that there is no confusion regarding it for our audience.
What Is Included in a Product Backlog?
As we discussed, a product backlog is not a list or a collection of technical specifications that the product development team has to fulfill for the development process to progress.
On the contrary, the product backlog is a collection of tasks and processes that are expressed in laymen’s terms or simple terms, so that the development team can understand them properly and make the user experience better for everyone.
Furthermore, the product backlog consists of all of the scope creeps and the bugs associated with the product, user stories of all of the elements in the product, and all of the insightful research findings that have been unearthed with relation to the product.
One thing that you should always keep in mind is that the product backlog is never fully complete. What we mean by that is that the product backlog has all of these amazing things included in it which constantly evolve into complex elements as more challenges, opportunities, and issues are identified.
When the development teams are working on the product development process, the process teams are always unable to do all of the things that they want to do, at once.
This is why, to make sure that everything gets done and according to the way that the product manager wants, the product backlog is pushed forward, which helps to prioritize the list of things that have to be done according to their importance and their impact on the overall product.
Product Backlog Management
We know what product backlog is and what it consists of, but how would you manage all of those different elements that are a part of it? How will you make sure that everything is perfect and nothing is out of order? Well, for that, we have a process called product backlog management.
The backlog management process is essentially the steps through which the product owners, adjust, prioritize, add and groom different backlog items so that when the customer gets the finished product, they get the most valued features that the product can provide.
This backlog management process is critically important because you want the backlog to be quick, inspired, and flexible, and without it, the product backlog can quickly become unreasonably complex, large, and difficult to control.
And it doesn’t stop there, because an oversized backlog affects the innovation that is embedded into the overall product, frustrates the agile product development teams that are working on the product development process, and also slows your time to market which we know is bad for business.
Let’s take a look at the core principles of the product backlog management process.
- Focussing on the user experience so that the product gets the praise and the recognition that it deserves.
- Ensuring continual innovation so that the product doesn’t become stagnant and it evolves from time to time to meet the changing needs of its users.
- Maintaining the costs of the product development process.
Product Backlog Grooming
One thing that you need to keep in mind as a product backlog manager is to make sure that the product backlog always stays as a tool for product development teams to plan their tasks and processes, and to make sure that the execution of these tasks is smooth and effective.
Also, when the product backlogs become too big or they are filled with incomplete tasks or outdated information packages, it can be really hard to maintain a continuous workflow and properly prioritize work activities as required.
Backlog grooming is usually performed as regularly scheduled sessions and they are performed by the entire agile development team. The main purpose of this entire exercise is to make sure that the product backlog is up-to-date and the task list is ready for the upcoming sprints.
Here are some of the steps that are performed in the overall product backlog grooming process:
- All of the outdated stories and tasks that have been a part of the product backlog since the beginning, but are now obsolete are removed from it so that the space can be filled with new and improved elements.
- New user stories that reflect newly discovered insights related to the entire product backlog are added to it so that the product can evolve and the customers can get a fresh product rather than an old iteration.
- Larger user stories of the product backlog are broken down into smaller items so that the development team can easily understand what to build and the user experience can be improved.
- User stories are reordered based on the current priority so that the most important things on the product backlog can be performed first as they have seniority in the task array.
- Story points or timelines included in the product backlog are reallocated if required.
Let’s now take a look at some of the tips that you can use to make sure that the product backlog management process that you perform for your product goes seamlessly and smoothly without any issues.
Tips for Efficient Product Backlog Management
Here are some of the tips to manage a product backlog efficiently:
- You need to make sure that the collaboration channels between your team and the product owner are improved and flawless.
- You should always start with the end-user in mind so that the product is always accepted and cherished by your customer base.
- As a product owner, you should regularly review the timelines so that the needs of the user are always put first.
- The stakeholders associated with the product backlog should always be constantly updated so that there is a sense of transparency and improved communication among all of the parties involved.
- And the last thing and probably the most important tip is to set priorities so that the team always knows what to work on and when to work on.
This was our guide regarding backlog management and what you can do to better manage everything. If you have any queries or suggestions, share them in the comments below and I will get back to you ASAP.